Another great joy of working with voice and speech, is learning about the voices and speech patterns that people find soothing, stimulating, beautiful or alluring. I have a library of voice recordings to listen to but when I think of the people I love – I need no recording, I can hear them clearly in my mind’s ear.
It’s no surprise then that most of us can recall voices with our mind’s ear. Reading about Michael Haneke’s film Amour, he explains how he came to cast Emmanuelle Riva as Anne, the retired piano teacher in Amour. He had been captivated by her voice when as a thirty year old actress she’d played an unnamed French woman talking to her young Japanese lover in Hiroshima Mon Amour. As the journalist Kim Willsher explains: “It is her (Emmanuelle Riva) voice, poetically repeating the same lines, that is etched on the memory long after the black-and-white credits rolled. Now, fifty four years later, Emmanuelle Riva’s voice is still as mellifluous and gently mesmerising.” It leaves a heart stirring sigh for the inevitability of life, love, death.
There was a time when we had a swear box and had to put in a £1 for every time we swore. At certain times of the year or month, the box would be full to overflowing. There was almost enough to pay for the lost car keys, or whatever it was that had caused the swearing. Whoops! There I go again – that’s another £1 in the box for “whatever”. Yes, now our swear box has been replaced by a “basically” box. Every time we say “you know”, “whatever”, “literally” or “basically” another £1 goes into the “basically” box. All these words are meaningless fillers. They tell our listeners that we aren’t concentrating or are thinking on empty. “Patronising pulp” as I’ve heard these words described. Personally, I was never against the odd “you know”, thinking it was quite chummy, until I was told categorically – sorry wipe categorically – it’s another filler, until I was told, that I had to stop saying “you know” unless I wanted to talk to myself. I then realised that filler words can become addictive. You don’t even know that you’re saying them. Lose the habit and gain courage. A pause makes listeners want to perk up and listen. “Basically” makes listeners want to listen to someone else.